January 16, 2024 | Laura Bergen

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” Gestures

Sometimes the kindness of a stranger can really turn someone’s day around. Small gestures like a hug in a moment of crisis, or life-saving acts of heroism can all make a huge impact. These Redditors shared their stories of the kind gestures they experienced which inspired them to pay it forward.

1. Under The Bridge

I was in Barcelona with my father. It was my tenth birthday, so he took me for a vacation to just chill, see the city, and have some father-son time. Anyhow, we decided to take one of these two-story red buses that rides around the city, and you can jump on and off as you'd like. Obviously, as Norwegian tourists, we wanted the top floor.

He told me to go grab us a seat while he paid for our tickets. The bus driver was rather impatient and started driving while people bought tickets. As my dad walks up the stairs and has barely had his feet on the top floor for more than two seconds, some random Asian guy in his mid-40 jumps out from his seat and pushes my dad down so he also goes down himself and hits the floor. I was horrified—and then I realized why he’d done it. 

The bus just drove under this tiny bridge of stone and would have literally crushed my father’s skull if this smiling Chinese man in his mid-forties didn't leap forward and push him.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, Andrew Bone

2. Out In The Cold

When I was younger I had parents who were horrible, like really terrible parents. One night in the middle of a snowstorm they threw me outside in the snow with no shoes or socks and in a t-shirt. It was freezing cold. I was wandering around the neighborhood behind the houses because I was too embarrassed. Suddenly, a neighbor of mine, (around 17 years old) was sitting on his window smoking and looking at the snow.

He saw me and asked what I was doing. I just gave him this look and he leaned out his window, grabbed me by the arms, and hauled me up into his window. He gave me some blankets and let me sit there in the warmth for a while and we just small-talked and he put on a movie. A little while later my mother came by, saw him, and asked if he had seen me.

He instantly, without hesitating, told her no, and watched until she left before helping me back home. At the time, it was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for me. The only person who had ever protected me from my parents. Since then I've always been doing my best to help my friends and acquaintances from their difficult families or relationships.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

3. When In New York

When I was 19 years old, I was with my best friend on a trip to New York from Vancouver, Canada. We were staying in Times Square but we went to a concert in Long Island and ended up taking really late transit home. Enter the creeps. A man and a woman clearly high on something get on the train and sit across from my scrawny pale friend and my equally scrawny self.

They start to inexplicably pick a fight with us, accusing us of making fun of them or something. I don't know, probably just an excuse to beat the snot out of us and maybe take whatever we have on us. The man becomes physically threatening when out of nowhere, an exceptionally large man with a thick New York accent says "Out of the way, fatty needs a seat" to me, temporarily defusing the situation—but he didn’t stop there.

He then proceeds to pull jawbreakers out of his pocket and hands them to my friend and me while telling a story of the jawbreakers he used to steal from kids at school. When the creepy couple gets belligerent again, the huge dude instantly changes the topic to his current bodyguard job and tells stories of smashing people's faces into cement walls and putting bad people into the hospital.

The creep shut up and got his girlfriend off of the train at the next stop, and we rode the rest of the way back to the hotel with this awesome dude talking about our favorite candies and the fastest ways to get to the center of a jawbreaker. I will be forever grateful for this guy for rescuing me from this weird situation. Very welcoming first night in New York!

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

4. Bench Buddy

I didn't have the best childhood. My adoptive father has some unconventional parenting methods, and so I used to cry a lot. On one such occasion, I was sitting on a park bench, crying softly to myself. I was trying to be discreet but I couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 at the time. An old lady sat at the other end of the bench and we sat in relative silence for a few minutes (I would sniffle occasionally but I was trying to be quiet).

She clearly noticed me wiping my eyes and asked me if I was okay. I told her I was, but she insisted on taking me to a nearby coffee cart and buying me a cup of hot chocolate (it was winter). It was the nicest thing she could have done for me and it was really nice to know that someone cared. I’ll never forget this kind woman.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

5. Under My Umbrella

I was in a foreign country so I didn't have a car and it was a weekend of a public holiday so there was very little public transportation. A friend and I had gone to explore the city and managed to walk quite a distance from our hotel. While we were out, over an hour away, disaster struck. It started raining harder than I can ever remember seeing.

It was gorgeous when we left, but ridiculously cold and rainy on the way back. My buddy had brought a coat, but I was in a t-shirt. A lady walking down the street towards us with her umbrella stopped me and insisted I take her umbrella. I tried to refuse, but she insisted, telling me that her place was just around the corner.

I was already drenched, but it sure did help to walk the remaining several miles with an umbrella instead of just my t-shirt. I try to pay it forward by being generous whenever I have something I don't need. Rather than just repaying the one event, I want to be the kind of person that lady was. Spread the kindness around.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

6. Language Barrier

I was an exchange student in Japan. My friends and I were visiting Kobe for the weekend. Of the three of us, I spoke the most Japanese, but even that was intermediate level at the very best. Predictably, we got lost. It was late and cold and we had nowhere to stay (we hadn't booked a room or anything). We were passing a karaoke place.

It's pretty common for someone to be standing outside of these places yelling about deals and shoving flyers at you. We were so desperate at this point that I asked the guy for help finding a place to stay. He tried to describe a place but even though I could understand most of what he said, we didn't have a map, smartphones, or know any street names, so his directions were useless.

The guy paused, looked around, and then started running, waving for us to follow. He personally led three foreigners who had no intention of spending money at his karaoke place through the streets at night, apparently at great risk to himself because he seemed absolutely panicked about getting back to his job quickly, even though he took us right to the door of a place where we could stay. We collected every yen we had and shoved it at the guy, but he threw up his hands, seemed aghast, and wouldn't accept a dime.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

7. Close Call

When I was getting off the bus in high school, some jerk decided he didn't want to wait behind the bus so he tried passing on the left. I should have been hit, but right before, some guy getting into his car whistled at me. I stopped and turned around to see who it was. That gesture probably saved me from being killed.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

8. Pay Day

One grocery week when I was in college I had my card declined. This was a bit of a problem as the kitchen was entirely out of food and I wasn't going to be paid for another week. It was really awkward being at the front of the line with $100 worth of groceries and having a hasty conversation with my girlfriend about how we were going to deal with this. That’s when I heard a voice behind me. 

Another guy in line offered to pay for our groceries. I tried to talk him down but he insisted and I was feeling really awkward holding up the line. I thanked him profusely and he told me word for word "Just pay it forward if you ever get the chance". Ever since, I've been jamming a dollar or two into every donation box I see, tipping an extra 5%, giving my change to the homeless, and otherwise looking for opportunities to “Pay it Forward”.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

9. The Crash

I was 15 and I owned a moped. It was late and raining and this car did not see me as it turned left across my lane. I was T-boned going about 30 mph (48 km/h). The car hit me right in my left thigh and my upper body hit and rebounded off of the hood. I flew maybe 20 feet (six meters) before hitting the pavement. My left thigh snapped in two when the car hit me.

I'm laying on the ground screaming for help when this guy comes up and kneels down with a knee on either side of my head so I can't move it around. He does his best to keep me calm and keep the rain off of me until the EMS guys show up and put me in traction and take me to the hospital. During that time the guy is asking me my name and address, making sure I'm coherent.

After they took me away he drove to my parents’ house and informed them that I was in an accident and mostly okay, and that they should go to the hospital to see me. He wanted to make sure they got there as soon as possible and thought it would be less jarring than the authorities showing up at their door. I never got a chance to thank him either but I think about him and his kindness from time to time. I hope one day I can do something similar for someone in distress.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

10. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

In middle school, I went to my first dance. I was so terrified to ask a girl to dance, I just felt so awkward. Then one of my female classmates, her name was Mary, came and asked me to dance. It was a small gesture, but it changed everything. She said she could tell I wasn't having fun and wanted to help me enjoy myself. It turned the whole experience around, and I was so happy. I felt so much better about myself after that.

From that point onward I always try to make dances/parties/shindigs fun for someone who looks miserable. It doesn't have to be a girl, I'll try and strike up a conversation with anyone. Once someone starts feeling at ease, they usually loosen up and start enjoying themselves. It doesn't always work, but I always give it a shot.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

11. A Shoulder To Cry On

When I lost my mother, I was in pieces. I remember being at the funeral and standing in front as the people passed by to share their condolences. I don't even remember the faces as they are passing me by. Just as things were about to start for the service, I was just blubbering (I am the only child of a single mom, so my world was a bit...broken now).

After the service, one of my mom's coworkers pulled me aside. She said that my mom had asked her to give me something that she knew I would need just around this time. It was the biggest hug I had ever had and I cried on her shoulder for what felt like a million years. Diane, if you are out there, thanks. This simple gesture meant a lot.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

12. Drink Up

During my first weekend of college, my friends and I ended up at a party in an apartment. I made a dumb move. I took a drink from a guy I'd just met. A few minutes later I was sitting on the stairs starting to fall asleep. A guy I didn’t know saw that something was wrong with me, gave his number to my roommate, and walked me home.

He said that he recognized what was happening to me as a sign that someone may have slipped something into my drink, and he didn't want me to be a victim because it had happened to his sister.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

13. On Three Wheels

This bloke genuinely saved my life. I was very young, probably about four or five and my parents were about to take me out on my first tricycle. I was sat just outside the gate to my house waiting for my parents when I had a stupid brain moment: "Hey Rael", my brain said, "you should totally just lift up your feet. Just lift them up"! I did.

I should probably mention that my house is on a very steep hill which leads directly down to a very busy road. It might also help to mention that the wee tricycle had no brakes of any kind. So pretty soon I was shooting down the hill like nobody's business. Straight towards the road. I was too frightened to even think straight. My parents were running after me screaming "Put your feet down", but I was going too fast.

I couldn't hear them and they couldn't keep up with me. Just a few meters from the road, a builder (I think he was a builder but it was a while ago) was loading up his van. He looked up and saw me. Without a word he gracefully strode onto the pavement and as I passed he swiftly and elegantly reached out, grabbed me, and lifted me from the tricycle which then rolled over. He set me down on the ground, closed his van, jumped into the front, and drove off. Neither me nor my parents ever got to thank him.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

14. Frohe Weihnachten!

I met a guy on the train to East Germany. We ended up partying the night away, becoming good friends, and I spent Christmas with him, his family, and his girlfriend. That was the last good meal I had before we deployed to the Gulf. I remember being blown away by how gracious and kind his parents were toward me. Plus, he bought me a New Kids on the Block Christmas album.

It was such a catastrophically poor gift but the thought was there. So now I always invite friends over for holidays and try to go overboard on gifts to friends. Thanks Thorsten.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

15. The Mechanic

When I was around 18 or so, my brother and some friends had a flat tire in the pouring rain. None of us had ever changed a tire, so we kind of stared at the tire and fumbled around with the "tire-changing tools" while standing in water halfway up to our knees.

All of a sudden, a businessman in a suit stops and gets out of his SUV, and changes the tire in about 30 seconds. We thank him and he run-swims back soaking wet to his SUV.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, Kurt Nordstrom

16. Gas Station Goodies

I'm in the service and so I drive around a boat in San Diego bay a lot. One day a retired guy came up to me while I was moored up and buying a pack of smokes at a gas station on the water, and he offered to buy them for me. He then said "You know, you look kind of hungry. Go pick out a snack". I did. "Don't you need something sweet to go with that"? "No sir, I'm fine". But he insisted, and got me a large iced tea and thanked me for my service. It meant a lot and I won't ever forget it.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, New York National Guard

17. Paper Or Plastic

When Ireland just had the plastic bag tax I went into Dublin for Christmas shopping (brought a flimsy plastic bag that I still had lying at home). I ended up buying a bit too much stuff and while waiting for the bus the bag just ripped and left me scrambling for everything. This middle-aged lady helped me gather my stuff, dived into her handbag, and gave me one of those sturdy reusable bags. A small gesture that made my Christmas.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

18. Stay Hydrated

I was at an amusement park, standing in line with my friends and her grandmother waiting to get on a water ride. It was really hot that day, and we only went on water rides to make sure we stayed cool. As soon as we got in line I got a headache. Nothing unusual, I get headaches all the time. My friend's parents were a little ways away from the entrance, but not too terribly far.

We had gotten halfway through the line and my head started pounding and I felt like I was going to throw up. I told my friends I was going to go back. One asked why and I said I wasn't feeling well. I later found out she didn't hear me. That’s when it got terrifying. Walking back, I started getting black spots all in my eyes. I had to grab onto the rail to keep my balance and to lead me back to the front.

As soon as I got to the entrance I couldn't stand anymore and fell down at the front while my vision went completely black. I couldn't see anything for a few seconds. About ten people passed me before one guy finally went over to help me stand up. I don't remember standing up. I remember the man putting my arm around his neck and starting to lead me back to my family.

A bunch of thoughts went through my mind: "Can I trust this guy? Is he going to take me away somewhere? I can't defend myself, I can hardly stand up". He was actually really nice, and led me back to my friend's mom and stayed around until the doctors there got to me. I never got to thank him because I hardly had enough breath in me to answer the simple yes and no questions the doctors asked me. I was apparently really dehydrated, but it made me realize how little people stop to help people who obviously need it.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

19. Hitting The Slopes

When I was about 10 years old, I used to go skiing on the weekends with Mobil ski club. It was a bunch of kids, anywhere from eight to sixteen or so, who would pile on a bus early morning on Saturdays, ski all day, and come back that night. They also held overnight trips. I recall the first, and only, of those trips I went on. I was absolutely terrified.

Everyone always seemed to know each other. On the day trips, it didn't bother me so much, but on the impending weekend trip, the consequences of loneliness seemed so magnified. I boarded the bus and sat there doing all I could to not break down crying out of fear and anxiety. An older kid, a snowboarder (still mostly skiers at that time), sat down next to me, which certainly didn't help with my unfounded feelings of inferiority.

But he looked down, obviously aware of my situation, and said simply, "You scared? Don't worry, man. It'll be alright". I cannot explain how much of a relief those words were. See, he was, in a metaphorical sense, what I was afraid of. Bigger kids. Cooler kids. Probably mean kids. Of course, I still freaked out that night and called my parents.

They planned an impromptu family ski trip, came up for the weekend, and saved me from...well, nothing really. I never got to thank the guy and I am sure he had little sense of the impact he made, but it is 23 years later and I still remember the intense feeling of gratitude from his comment. Seriously, I want to give the guy a hug today as much as I did then.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, woodleywonderworks

20. Biking In Japan

I was visiting my sister in Japan. One day while she was away at work I decided to take her bike and explore the small city she lived in. I was riding along when all of a sudden my back tire blew out. At this point, I was pretty far from her house and I didn't know how to get back home. I started walking with the bike when out of nowhere a Japanese guy pulled up in his pickup.

He got out of the truck, put the bike in the back of the truck, and told me to get in the passenger's seat. In broken English, he said he was going to help me. Well, he drove me to a bike shop and took the bike out of the back of the pick, and brought it inside the shop. He then proceeded to fix the tire. He apparently was the owner of this bike shop. I paid for the repair and looked around the shop and realized his shop was a block away from my sister's apartment.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, Goat Tree Designs

21. Striking A Chord

Six years ago I joined a music appreciation group (just a bunch of amateurs playing piano for each other). At some point, they hosted an event to which they invited a really good professional musician to come and perform. At some point, this musician heard me play. After I finished my piece, he came up to me and invited me to come to a festival at which he was going to perform the following month, and to share a set with him. It was so nice—but I had no idea about what kind of impact it would have. 

At the festival, he gave me a grand introduction, played a duet with me, and let me play a couple of tunes during one of his sets. That is how my performing career started. After that festival, I started getting invitations to come to play at other festivals. Eventually, I started getting solo concerts. I now have a fairly busy performance schedule. All because of one act of kindness.

I try to "pay it forward" by being nice to the other musicians on that scene, and by being encouraging to beginners. Also, since I'm also an attorney, I've occasionally helped out some of the musicians on a pro bono basis.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

22. Car Troubles

I was 17 years old and all alone in the downtown area of Atlanta at night when I ran out of gas. My fuel pump sensor was broken so I didn't get the little low fuel light on my dash. I pulled right over into a sketchy-looking gas station, the type where the attendant is behind a thick shield of plexiglass and there are cameras everywhere, and attempted to open the door to my gas tank using a lever on the floor of my car.

Turns out the cable connecting the lever to the door was disconnected so I couldn't get it open. And my cellphone was dead. It was clearly not my day—and it was about to get worse. I went into the gas station and asked the attendant if I could borrow a phone. He told me no, for safety reasons, I couldn't come behind the counter which I understood because this was a bad side of town.

I had been begging him to let me borrow a phone when a group of scary-looking dudes walked in and he turned his attention from me to them. I quickly walked outside. Luckily, I keep a small roadside kit and tool set in my car for emergencies (thanks dad), so I pulled out a flathead screwdriver to try to pry the door open. At this point, I am visibly shaken up.

Then I hear the door of the gas station and turn to see one of the big scary guys walking over to me. I froze on the spot. He took off his hat and said, "Ma'am are you having car trouble? Do you need to call someone"? And from his pocket, he pulls out a phone and hands it to me. He carefully took the tool from my hand and asked if I wanted him to give it a shot.

I was speechless so I just nodded. While I am dialing he asks, "What's a girl like you doing out here on her own? This is a bad area, you need to be more careful". I explained that I had been at work and was driving this way to get on the interstate. My dad picks up and I tell him what happened, he starts asking where I am and I really wasn't sure.

The guy asks to speak to my dad so I hand him the phone and he says, "Sir, I got your daughter here at (gas station name) on (name of road) off exit ___. She's just fine but I wanted to ask if you'll be alright with me removing the door over her gas tank so she can fill it up. Alright then, I'll stay here with her til you get here". Home was about 45 minutes away but he stayed with me the whole time. When my dad got there and thanked the man, he just held up his hands and said, "It wasn't any trouble. I would just hope that if my daughter was ever in a similar situation that someone would be so kind as to look out for her". And he left.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

23. Ticket Please

I was going to see Avengers with some of my buddies, but I couldn't get there early enough to buy a ticket. Turns out my friends didn’t buy me a ticket and didn't even save me a seat. Anyways, I'm on the phone with them freaking out because I just drove 30 minutes to get to the theater and might have to watch the movie by myself later.

As I'm talking on the phone, this man I've never met before approaches me and offers me a spare ticket. I continued to offer him money but he rejected it. This completely changed my night and it was awesome of him to do that.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

24. Thank You For Your Service

On my second combat tour, I actually got a mid-tour leave. We landed at the Dallas airport, and after the customs nonsense, we walked out to a huge crowd of people clapping and cheering for us. One little girl (about seven or eight years old) handed me a box of Girl Scout cookies, so I said, “Sure, how much”? She said, “Nothing sir, thank you for your service”. Even now as I type this I am tearing up. This little girl I will never forget.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, greyloch

25. Cash Strapped

I was coming back from a year of volunteering in India and had a long layover in Zurich. I wanted to see a bit of the city, but I had very little cash and my account was close to drained. On the flight, I get to talking with two young women from the area (no, this is not going where you think it's going).

They were both getting a ride into town with one of their dads, who insisted on buying me breakfast, showing me where a free bike rental place is, and forcing me to take 20 Swiss Francs (over $20) for the deposit/lunch. He tells me that he was in a very similar situation in his early 20s, and the same thing happened to him. Since then I've been on the lookout for broke travelers.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPxhere

26. Quite The Performance

I was in Disney World on the boardwalk with my parents and decided to wander away to see some street performer’s show. It went wrong as soon as a little girl was chosen to throw a bowling pin. Her aim was way off, it was hurtling toward my 13-year-old face, and in response, I turned my face away and braced for impact. Only, it never happened. 

I heard the audience gasp and applaud, and it turned out that the kid texting next to me, who previously seemed to be a total honey badger, managed to catch the pin inches away from my face. I was too shocked to say thanks, my parents pulled me away, and I couldn't find him for the rest of the night. I wish I knew who he was, I would love to thank him!

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

27. Cash In Hand

A German girl once gave me $50 when my bag got stolen in Athens, Greece and I was too broke to even make it to my embassy for replacement papers or cash advances. She had just returned from Nepal where someone had saved her with some cash.

Without cards or passport, I had no chance to even get money from my own bank account, so this helped me out a lot to get my stuff sorted out. I am forever grateful, dear traveler, and always ready to pass on your cash when meeting the next traveler in need.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

28. Soup And Sandwich

When I was 22 I had a substance misuse problem. My neighbor was an old Polish lady who would bang on the wall when I played music too loud. When things got really bad for me, she must have known I was hurting and not eating because she started ringing my bell and giving me sandwiches she'd made, or bags of bagels and containers of soup and stuff.

She would sit with me and we would eat together. I never understood a word she said because she spoke really bad English. She really gave me hope in humanity which is something I desperately needed at the moment. I always remember her. Also, I just celebrated seven years clean and sober. I still think about that woman a lot.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

29. Rolling Hills

Once when I was very young (let's say six years old) I was wrestling with my little brother in the front seat of my dad's truck while he was inside a store returning a movie. The truck was a stick shift and parked at the top of a very steep hill. One of us kicked the emergency break, disengaging it and the truck began to roll forward.

I saw that we were rolling right for the hill and going to crash but I was too scared and too young to know what to do. Suddenly, some guy appears out of nowhere, runs up to the car, opens the door, and puts down the e-break, stopping the truck from rolling. He never said a word to us. I can't remember if I said thank you or not.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, StubbyFingers

30. The Karma Loop

A few mates and I were riding in a cab all the way across London. The cabbie overheard our banter and correctly surmised that we were all in the service (US/UK/Aus). I never expected him to do what he did next. 

When we arrived at our destination, he waived the (significant) fare and wouldn't take any money, despite our protests. I know this sort of thing is reasonably common in the US, but I haven't really seen it anywhere else. To close the karma loop, I noted his cab number and wrote a letter of thanks to the cab company.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, Don O

31. Caught In The Rain

My friends and I had an early start one day, we went all the way to the top of this "mountain" and had a great lunch whilst enjoying it all. Then the rain came, as it does in Austria, without a warning. We decided to walk back down beside the road instead of the trail we had come up on.

Probably after ten minutes of walking on the slippery downhill road, with cars passing by constantly, watching every step to make sure no one slips, this old man stops by us. First, we thought it was not a good idea to go to a stranger’s car, but we thought as we were four people and one of us is an ex-service person, we ought to be fine.

The man offered us a ride to the city, all the way to our favorite pub. We chatted all the way and he told us about his life as an immigrant and refugee, how he loves the kindness of Austrians (none of us were Austrians, though), and was in general a great man. It left us all feeling better about the kindness of people.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

32. Movie Theater Mayhem

I was 14 and two girlfriends and I had gone to the theater in my neighborhood to see Ghost Rider (my first mistake, I know). We had gone to the 10:00 pm show, so it let out around midnight. When our movie finished, my friends went to the bathroom, as is necessitated by the female movie theater ritual, and I elected to wait out in the secondary lobby.

That was probably my second mistake. I was the only one in the hallway which made me a target for an extremely large, homeless/cracked-out-looking 40+-year-old man. He was built like a truck.

Generally, I'm extremely outgoing and can talk with strangers easily. However, the moment I noticed this fellow approaching, an overwhelming sense of fear washed over me. My brain kept telling me to get out of there fast.

My naive 14-year-old self decided to stay where I was, thinking: "There's no way anything bad could happen to me since I'm obviously invincible to the world. Bad stuff only happens in the news. Don't judge a book by its cover! He's probably a lovely guy". He approached and asked me if I had any cigarettes. I said no and that I didn't smoke, when he suddenly reached out and grabbed my hand.

He stood there shaking my hand saying how he was desperate for a smoke, increasing his grip every time I tried to pull my hand away. He kept closing the distance between us while strangling my hand and eventually he had me backed into a corner, all the while he kept fiddling around with something in his pocket (I don't know what it was; he never took that hand out of his pocket the entire time).

He kept saying how he wasn't even there to see a movie, just wanted some cigarettes. He was insistent that we go get cigarettes and kept trying to steer me toward the side door.

I was so scared that I was probably on the brink of wetting myself. I looked to see if anyone was around, only to notice my two friends standing outside the bathroom door, not doing anything while this man was forcing his body onto mine in a public place.

They were the only people around and they were just standing there. Understandably, they later said they were confused as to what was happening and didn't know what to do. Thankfully, a movie lets out right in front of where the man has me trapped. I thought I was saved—I was so wrong. Every single person passed by without so much as a second glance. Oh no, I thought, I'm gonna get kidnapped.

This man wouldn't take his eyes off of mine for a second, and pushed his chest against mine every time I looked around for help. I was too afraid to yell. Suddenly, a group of three guys (probably only around 15 or 16 years old) came straggling out of the theater. They didn't notice me at first, but just as they were rounding the corner out of the lobby, one of them turned around and stared at me oddly.

He mouthed "Do you need help?", and I nodded as discreetly as I could. The guy came running up and threw his arm around my shoulders, saying things along the lines of "Thanks for waiting, babe. You ready to go? That was a great movie, huh? I'm glad we went in the end. Who's this guy”?! The man instantly lets go of my hand, keeping his other hand in his pocket, and backs away quickly, mumbling how he just wanted a smoke, and then he ran out of the emergency exit at the back of the lobby.

My guy escorted me outside, and I was in such a state of shock that I think I just hugged him and ran away to my mom who had been waiting in the parking lot. I had been so sure that no one was going to help me, not even my friends, and in such a moment of panic I was really not thinking straight enough to follow the steps I should have—like yelling for help.

Ever since, I've made an effort to make sure I'm aware of my surroundings just in case someone needs help but can't ask. Haven't "saved" anyone yet, but only time will tell! The extent of my "paying it forward" is saving girls from bad situations at the bar, nothing heroic yet, but hopefully, I'll be able to help someone out when they really need it.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

33. Need A Boost

When I lived in Miami, a friend and I were driving to go out to a local goth/industrial club and her car broke down. At this time, not everyone had phones and neither of us had one. What we really needed was someone with jumper cables but no one stopped. Tons of cars passed by. A couple of dudes slowed down and made catcalls at us.

Finally, a lady stopped. She got us some water and helped us. Out of all the people who passed us, this older woman was the only one who stopped to help. Ever since then, I've always made sure if I see anyone who looks like they need help, I help them.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPxhere

34. Departure

I was at the airport waiting for my flight after having just been dropped off by my boyfriend at the time. It was a long-distance relationship, so I was really sad to be going home. I was sitting at my gate, trying to cry unobtrusively, when I felt an arm go around me.

A family had been walking by and the dad saw how sad I was, so he sat down next to me and gave me a hug. He asked me what was wrong, and we ended up talking until I had to board. His family came and sat with me too; they were all very sweet and made me feel much better. The little boy gave me a candy bar, too.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, dennis crowley

35. Broken Bones

Earlier this year I slipped on a patch of black ice during a run and broke my leg. I was lying on the sidewalk screaming and a young woman drove up and jumped out of her car. She wanted to call emergency services for me but I wouldn't let her (that stuff is expensive). She insisted on driving me home. Turns out she was on her way to her nanny gig and on the way she had to call the house to explain that she'd be late. So I made her late, and undoubtedly her bosses as well. I never got her license plate or name, so I have no way to thank her.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPxhere

36. Crushed

When I was like seven years old or something I was being a typical stupid kid and playing around in a collapsible stroller. I was rolling around the street in it when it collapsed on me and I was crushing myself with my own body weight, but I literally could not breathe and I thought I wouldn’t make it. Then out of nowhere some guy just nonchalantly walks over and lifts me out of it and walks away without saying a word.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

37. Lost And Found

I was super inebriated at a college football game, and when we left the game to go to a house party at half time I unknowingly dropped my phone in the street. An hour later when I realized my phone was missing, I called my phone from my friend's cell. I can’t believe how lucky I got. Not only did someone pick it up, but they came all the way to the football game (even though they were not attending), met me at the gate, and gave it back to me.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

38. Don’t Cross

One day I was waiting to cross the street on my way to class, headphones in, not paying attention, when the light changed and I started walking. Little did I know an ambulance was tearing down the hill (I should have realized no one else was walking). A girl grabbed me and pulled me back onto the sidewalk. I think I just stood there gaping at her as she crossed the street. However, for the rest of my time at school whenever I passed that spot I'd think "This is where the girl in the red sweatshirt saved my life".

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

39. New Friends

When I was a young teen I went to a water park called Noah's Ark with a bunch of friends and their father. It was a totally different time then, so we were just told to go run around, have fun, and meet me back here at X o clock. So I am running around with one of my buddies, but we get split up. So I am walking around looking for them, and a small group of college girls notice my look of confusion on my face and walk up to me.

Long story short they end up lugging me around with them for hours, having a good time, buying me snacks and stuff. Well, a few hours burn by and we run into my friend's father. The look on his face made it all worth it. I got a small horde of beautiful women with me and he is just taken aback, doesn't know what to say. They all just laugh, say they had fun, and leave. I wish I was smart enough to get some numbers.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

40. Parched

I was out hiking with my dad on Mt. Hood during the summer, and we had picked a particularly hard trail. Though we brought two big water bottles, we had finished them before reaching the end. I was mentioning to my dad that I was really thirsty and this lady heard me, and offered me some of her water as she had like three bottles strapped to her belt. I drank it down and later realized that I was probably on the way to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Thanks, random hiker lady for the drink of water! I shall pay it forward.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

41. Way Down In Kokomo

I was behind a white car at a Burger King one morning and noticed the dealership sticker said Kokomo, Indiana. For some reason, I just started singing the Kokomo song (this was in Florida) getting ready to order. When I got to the window the person had paid for my meal. It was the best meal from Burger King I had ever had!

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

42. First Aid

I once split my thumb open at a bar because I had fallen on my own beer. I didn’t think it was that bad—but I was so wrong. A random dude wrapped my hand in a towel and put crazy pressure on it to try and keep me from bleeding out because my blood was thinned because of the booze in my system. All I remember about the guy is a thick, sandy, mustache, but I still think about him sometimes.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

43. Tube Man

When my mother and I immigrated to the UK in 1998 (I was eight), I remember traveling back home on the tube sometime near Christmas. There was a lively young group of guys sitting across us who struck up a conversation. I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but when it was time for them to get off one of the lads pulled out his wallet and handed me a £10 note and said, "Welcome to the country".

I remember saving that £10 for a while (though later I probably spent it on something silly like ice cream). Wherever you are, happy inebriated tube man, you will never be forgotten.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

44. Tea Time

When I was in the military, we had an overseas exercise in Taiwan. There was a four-day field exercise and by the third day, we were physically exhausted and mentally drained from the lack of sleep. We passed a Chinese temple in the middle of the forest and decided to take a break there. The old man from the temple came out to us and made us tea. No jasmine tea I had since then tasted sweeter.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPxhere

45. Locked Out

I think I was in seventh or eighth grade, and I was struggling to pull my locker door open. It was somehow jammed shut. It was lunchtime and there was no one else in the locker bay, except for this good-looking, popular Asian girl a year above me. She just walked up to my locker and pried it open for me with zero difficulty. She gave me a friendly laugh afterward after I thanked her.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

46. Bardian Angel

When I was in college, I was out with some friends at a bar and having too much of a good time. I drank a little bit too much when this creeper guy started buying the group drinks. We were all a little too messed up to think of saying no, plus you can woo any broke college kids with free booze. He joined our booth and he put his arm around me at some point.

Later on, I got up to use the bathroom—but there was something I didn’t notice. He was following me. As I walked into the restroom, a girl was walking out and presumably saw the guy following me in there as she came in about a minute after with the bouncer, catching the creeper trying to break down the stall door. Creeper got thrown out, and the random woman saved the day.

Now, I always make it a point to look out for messed-up girls at the bar. I've pulled quite a few girls aside to ask them if they were all right, if they were at the bar alone or with friends, and if they knew the guys they were talking to, and put them in cabs if they were not feeling well/creeped out. It may cost me money, but I'd hate to be in their situation without help. My fiancé calls me the “bardian angel”.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

47. Purse Snatcher

I had finally got a date with a girl I'd been trying to go out with for a while now. I think I was somewhat interested but I could tell I was going to have to really work to impress her. At that moment a man runs past us, snatching her purse and getting away before I knew what to do, but another guy turns around and just decks him and proceeds to bring the purse back to my date.

My date couldn't stop thanking him. The guy wasn't bad looking either and at that point, I knew it was over, that even if she didn't decide to just run off with that guy right then and there she would be thinking about him the whole time. That’s when things took a bizarre turn. I think my face must have shown what I was feeling or something because the guy suddenly starts acting like a complete jerk, telling her to get off him, and how he only did it to prove he was a man and some other nonsense.

I had no idea what was happening until my date came back and said we should go, later telling me that she was sure glad that guy wasn't her date. But there was something she didn’t know. As we were leaving, I turned back to look at that guy, and he gave me a look and a knowing smile, and that was the moment I realized it was all an act.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

48. Ski Hill Save

When I was around four years old my family and I went skiing. My oldest sister and I went up the two-person lift together. I started to slouch in the chair and scooch my bum forward and slip my stomach underneath the bar. It was a horrific mistake. Before I knew what was happening, I was slipping under the bar. My sister caught my wrist before I fell and I ended up dangling by her hand.

At this point, we had reached the middle (and highest) point on the lift and were about 15 meters (45 feet) off the ground. My sister wasn't strong enough to lift me back up, so we could only wait helplessly for me to slip to certain injury. By this time they had stopped the lift. A man skied under me and told me to kick my skis off. I was confused and refused at first, but eventually complied.

Then he told me to let go. It was a big drop for a four-year-old, but I let go and he caught me. Just like that, no bigs. Anyway, I don't really remember what happened after that, I assume someone from my family thanked him, but if he's reading this, I was the young kid at Cascades Ski Hill, in Ottawa, Canada around 1996. Thanks for saving me from spending the holidays with broken bones.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesFlickr, Marcy Leigh

49. In A Ditch

When I was younger, around five, my mom was a big drinker—and it culminated in one terrifying night. She had all three of her kids in a car driving around swerving in the pouring rain around midnight. Sure enough, she drove into a ditch. We all were fine, but my mom was yelling and swearing, she had no idea where we were, the car was totaled, and me and my brothers were crying.

We sat there as she tried to call someone but no one was answering. She was probably too out of it to work the phone. I had given up hope and figured we would have to walk somewhere because no houses were in sight. We sat there scared and confused for around 20 minutes before a light crept up far down the road, and soon a little red old car slowed down seeing the wreck and ended up picking us up and driving us home.

It was a very old lady, I remember she had a ceiling fan in her back seat, so all of us were cramped but I don't think we cared. She was the nicest old lady I have ever met. She had to drive us 30 minutes to get back to our house, and I don't remember how my mom managed to explain to her where our house was. It was hands down the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. That was also the last time my mom drank, that was 12 years ago. We were never able to find out where we’d been to get the totaled car later.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

50. The Final Gift

I had a fairly bad motorcycle accident in India where I was studying Tibetan when I was 19. I mangled my leg, got stitches, and had some bone bruising. After a few days, I decided to try walking to the dorm bathrooms. I was barely able to walk the 40 feet to them from my room.

As I hobbled along in noticeable pain the elderly Tibetan caretaker (maybe 85 years old) did a double take, stopped me, and handed me his cane, and said in Tibetan, "You need it more than me young man." I promised to give it back to him when I no longer needed it.

Two weeks later I was healed up enough to walk without the cane and went looking for him—but I couldn’t believe what I found. His daughter was at his residence packing his things as he was no longer with us. Just a few days after he helped me.

The Kindest “Pay It Forward” GesturesPexels

Sources: Reddit,


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